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How Hotels Can Win Over Older Luxury Travelers

The travel industry often focuses its attention on younger generations, and somewhat forgets about the more mature audience segment. The luxury travel sector is no different, despite the fact that marketing to older travelers represents a sound financial strategy.

In terms of financial spending power, Americans 55 and older account for 41.6% of consumer spending, yet they’re frequently overlooked by advertisers more intent on targeting Millennials.

In the following article, we’ve compiled six insights for luxury hotels on the habits and behaviors of the Baby Boomer generation (defined by Pew Research Center as those born between 1946 and 1964).

Read on to discover our takeaways on how to market to this demographic successfully.

1. Boomers want an adventure

Couple with map

The cliches of what older luxury travelers want from a vacation are changing. Instead of lounging by the pool with a cocktail in hand, older generations increasingly seek out far-flung destinations looking for adventure and one-of-a-kind experiences. When it comes to international trips, a recent AARP Travel survey found that the majority of Boomers travel overseas on a bucket list trip (22%), compared with 13% of Gen Xs, and just 6% of Millennials.

Tip for success:

Cater to the mindset, not the age. Mature luxury travelers are acting more like their kids, so don’t limit the experiences you offer them based on out-of-date stereotypes. Recommend those off-the-beaten-path trips, tell them about all the (authentic) ways they can connect with the local community, and suggest bucket list-type activities that will set their imagination racing.

2. Boomers spend more on travel

Baby boomers take fewer trips than other demographics, but when they do travel, they spend a lot more. According to research by Phocuswright, travelers aged 55 and above are more likely to spend over $1,000 per trip. And nearly half of Boomer travelers spend approximately $3,000 per year on travel, which makes them the highest spending of all age groups.

Tip for success:

Given that older travelers have a propensity to spend more on travel, it makes sense to upsell and cross-sell desirable extras to them, such as room upgrades and luxury services such as spa treatments and personalized tours. But the way you market these extras might be just as important.

For instance, once their kids have flown the nest, a lot of older parents finally get to spend their hard-earned savings on themselves. It’s a time of life when self-indulgence is finally justified. If you specifically mention this fact in your marketing, you’ll help reinforce those carefree attitudes, and position yourself as a destination where senior travelers can indulge in an appealing new lifestyle.

3. Boomers book early

traveler with flight ticket

According to Expedia, Baby Boomers are more likely to book their trips further in advance, often months before they depart. Boomers are also far more likely to travel for a week or more. As work commitments slow down and retirees bask in their newfound freedom, it’s natural that they deliberate over where to enjoy their next big getaway.

Tip for success:

Given that Boomers spend more time in the dreaming and planning phase of travel, hotels need to reach out earlier to influence booking decisions. To keep your hotel top of mind, stay in touch with your email subscribers year-round by advertising room deals, seasonal promotions, and booking incentives.

You could even produce a dedicated destination guide full of tailored recommendations. Baby Boomers are more active than ever, so why not suggest local hiking routes, cycling tours, and golf courses? Obviously don’t be shy about suggesting more relaxing ideas too, such as wine tasting trips and spa experiences.

Research popular Baby Boomer blogs to get a better idea of what your target audience is really interested in.

4. Boomers are active on social media

woman on phone

The assumption that social media is predominantly used by younger generations is largely misplaced. In fact, 64% of those aged 50 to 64 use social media. Furthermore, a third of luxury travelers say their vacation destination choices are based at least in part on what they see on social media.

Yet luxury hospitality brands still aren’t utilizing social media to connect with consumers, and hotels account for just 4% of measured conversations that take place on social.

Tip for success:

Social media is being underused by luxury travel brands, which means that there’s a huge opportunity to own the space and drive attention. If you’re going to focus on one platform, make it Facebook. Recent figures reveal that over 55s are flocking to Facebook as they strive to keep up with the social lives of their children and grandchildren.

Tools such as Trip Consideration and City Guides can be utilized to connect and market your property to ready-to-be-inspired luxury travelers. As social media plays an increasingly central role throughout the travel journey, hotels neglect it at their peril.

5. Boomers want customer service to be simple and flexible

In the ‘Millennials vs Boomers’ travel report by [24]7, 35% of Boomers said that phone is their preferred method of interacting with customer service. But Boomers also said that self-service tools on a company’s website was their number one method for getting support. The lesson for luxury hotels is the same as for any property: provide your target customer with their favored form of customer experience.

Tip for success:

Boomers still prefer to call, so make sure that your phone number is prominently displayed throughout your marketing and on your hotel website. Use supporting messaging such as “Call our reservation team for assistance” to indicate your willingness to help. Given that Boomers are also happy to self-serve, it’s worth integrating a chatbot into your website to provide additional support for the increasing numbers of tech-savvy seniors.

6. Boomers want to feel relevant

In the youth-driven travel industry, it’s easy for seniors to feel forgotten. A report by Euromonitor International suggests that luxury marketers have forgotten about ‘mid-lifers’ (those aged 45 to 59), despite the fact that this demographic represents a highly lucrative section of the luxury market.

The report goes on to explain that mid-lifers “should be targeted in terms of life stage as much as age,” noting how members of this demographic have vastly different lifestyles, ranging from empty nesters largely free of responsibility, to those who are busier than ever caring for their children or elderly parents.

Tip for success:

There are really two lessons here. First, make your Boomer travelers feel welcome. Include reviews or testimonials from senior travelers on your website and in your marketing to give them the added confidence to book with you.

Image choice can also add reassurance. Travel websites frequently use images of young people, but if you include image of seniors, you’ll create a more inclusive feel and let older generations know that your hotel is right for them.

Perhaps just as importantly, remember that Boomers aren’t a homogeneous

group. While some might be enjoying the freedom of early retirement, others might be working hard to save for a one-off luxury vacation. Luxury hotels therefore need to get to know each guest as an individual, understand their needs and current lifestyles, and market themselves accordingly.

How to win over older luxury travelers

friends meeting in city

Senior travel isn’t what it once was. Baby Boomers are increasingly adventurous, keen to immerse themselves in local experiences, and unafraid to travel to far-flung destinations. They’re also less risk-adverse and more tech-savvy than stereotypes would have us believe.

For the most part (but not always), they have more flexible lifestyles that allow them to take longer over planning trips. And even though they take fewer trips than other generations, they spend more and stay for longer when they do decide to travel.

For luxury hotels, the Boomer generation remains a highly lucrative demographic. The key to winning them over comes down to understanding the distinct nuances in terms of their lifestyles, behaviors, and motivations for travel.

Kate Bielamowicz

Kate Bielamowicz

Kate Bielamowicz is a Digital Strategy Manager at Pegasus with expertise in content and strategy for e-commerce platforms. In both work and play, she is driven by an insatiable curiosity, a love of words, and a passion for bridging disciplines. Contact her at kate.bielamowicz@pegs.com.

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